(04/27/22) BATON ROUGE, La. — While Wyoming and Louisiana are separated by more than 1,000 miles and don’t share much in terms of climate or severe weather occurrences, Carol Friedland, a Wyoming native, learned lessons from an early age that shape her current life’s work in the Bayou State.
As a child, Friedland’s parents were frugal and lived off what the land provided. This idea of stretching a dollar combined with sustainability helped pave the way for Friedland’s recent appointment as director of the LSU AgCenter LaHouse Home and Landscape Resource Center, replacing retired director Claudette Reichel.
“My parents were hunters, so they would get elk, deer and antelope every year,” she said. “We rarely ate beef because it was more expensive, and we grew a lot of our own vegetables and canned or froze them.”
The idea behind LaHouse is to use research to help provide homeowners with solutions for more comfort, durability, value, convenience, environmental quality, safety and better health in their homes while also using less energy and water and minimizing pollution, waste, damage and loss.
LaHouse offers research-based solutions for resilient, sustainable and healthy homes and communities.
Friedland said sometimes her family would drive two and a half hours to the nearest large city because supermarkets there would have double coupons.
“My early life informs how I approach my research,” she said. “We watched our budget and tried to get the best quality for the best price.”
While pursuing her master’s degree and doctorate in civil engineering from LSU, Friedland began modeling the impacts of hurricanes and asking questions that directly related to homeowners’ concerns — like if the damage was caused by wind or flood, and if insurance will pay for repairs or rebuilding.
“I wanted to better understand the types of damage that were occurring and how we could move forward with our prediction models to anticipate and understand these types of damage,” she said.
This brought Friedland to her current project, which is funded by Louisiana Sea Grant, and is meant to help homeowners understand the incentives and barriers to freeboard for new homes. Freeboard is elevating a house above the regulatory standard or the base flood elevation. Additional information can be found at floodsafehome.lsu.edu, a web-based tool that is being developed for homeowners in Jefferson, St. Tammany and Terrebonne parishes.
Friedland says it is often difficult to convince people to spend more on a home during the building process to avoid costs later, but the benefits are worth it.
“While the initial cost to build a home at a higher elevation is greater, most people don’t pay for their homes outright, so with a mortgage it’s only about $30 to $50 more a month,” she said. “When you pay your mortgage payment each month, your principal and interest are higher, but what’s taken out in escrow for your flood insurance is lower. So, in fact, you have more money at the end of the month.”
While Friedland has only been on the job as LaHouse director for a short time, she is already working to improve and update online resources. Her ongoing project in collaboration with LSU and UNO is to expand the FloodSafeHome site beyond the three parishes it currently serves to 20 coastal parishes and, in the future, to the entire state.
“Flood hazards do not only impact coastal parishes,” Friedland said. “Soon, all of Louisiana will be able to put in their address, their home’s details and receive personalized results and recommendations to prevent flood damage and ultimately save money.”
Friedland emphasized that she hopes to shift the focus of LaHouse from being a destination where people travel to learn about saving and sustainability to more of a research-based example of how to do things for people back home. She sees online resources as being the key to that evolution.
“Research and outreach are the missions of LaHouse,” she said. “We hope to collaborate with other researchers to develop tools and solutions to help all families have a resilient, sustainable and healthy home.”
Carol Friedland has been named the new director for LaHouse, which offers research-based solutions for resilient, sustainable and healthy homes and communities. Photo courtesy of LSU University Relations